By Andrew Blumetti
To address that seemingly exaggerated title, let’s bust out of the starting gate with an important question. One simple inquiry that should, no, make that needs to be answered by the end of this article.
“Did he do thaaaaaaaaat?”
..and my dear friends, the answer to that haunting query, beyond a shadow of a doubt will absolutely come back, yes.
Carl Otis Winslow is an island.
No, that’s not just because the zoftig patriarch of the Chicago household is filled with more coconuts than a Rupert Holmes song, it’s because, despite his penchant for adult hissy-fits and Sears Tower-high cholesterol, this doughy donut factory is still standing on two legs.
…and more importantly, it’s because a good chunk of his family isn’t.
Take a few seconds to gander, ganderers. Above this very sentence is a delightful photo of the Winslow clan mid-series. Sure, they’re all smiles and bright colors here, but fate would reach its cold, calloused hand down and throw them in a different direction. You can print that adorable picture out, tape it to your wall, toss a dart at it, and there’s a likely chance the character it lands on quietly disappeared by the series’ unfateful demise in 1999.
Well, of course, unless it landed on Carl.
Now, by comparison, here’s a cast photo in the show’s final (nauseatingly bad) season:
A few additions, a lot of subtractions. My, my, my, that is some frighteningly suspicious TGIF math there. Granted, television is a fickle land, shows do pick up and drop stars at will. Heck, look no further than the differences between E.R.‘s first and last season casts, there’s nary an Eriq La Salle to be seen for miles around. What made the cast changeovers on Family Matters unique is how heavy, yet subtle the subtractions came.
A typical 90’s neon-drenched sitcom whose seed was deeply planted in Perfect Strangers, (the Odd Couple for Eurotrash in the 1980’s), Family Matters quickly grabbed the “loving middle class African American family” baton from The Cosby Show, and ran like the Dickens through the following decade.
The hilarious irony is that the longer the show lasted, the less family seemed to matter. Quietly dropping like flies, all while pants-to-his-stupid-nipples next-door nerd neighbor, Steve Urkel, apologetically hijacked the show, dunked it in silly juice, crashed it on the moon and eventually turning it into a grade-A slapstick mess on toast.
If there’s one thing Carl knew well, it was food, and if “you can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs” rings true, it’s time to start looking at the last man standing for the remains of those tossed broken eggshells…
THE WINSLOW FAMILY BODY COUNT:
1. Judy Winslow
In real life, Jaimee Foxworth, who portrayed the youngest Winslow kin, took a major league spill down crap mountain so historic, even the world’s most adorable meth-head, Jodi Sweetin, rolled her bloodshot eyes at her in pity. In the world of Family Matters though, Judy just flat-out disappeared, (although to the viewing audience, she actually disappeared somewhere between episodes 2 and 4). The best part? The family blew it off like the girl never existed in the first place.
Or, just what Carl Winslow would have us believe.
THEORY: Desperate for a ratings bump and with blood-sugar issues driving him up a wall, Carl, infamous for his 28 Days Later-level of rage, turned to cannibalism during a dark, unaired episode.
Let’s begin our meal…
- 4 quarts of chicken broth
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 young Winslow child
Annoyingly useless character gone, hunger pains gone? Sounds like a Win/Winslow situation to me!
2. Rachel Baines-Crawford
She wore stupid hats, sang at strange times, opened a restaurant with the most narcissistic name humanly possible, and bizarrely enough, left her weirdo son out of nowhere, only to make periodic returns at the oddest times with no explanation given.
Rachel’s sudden and unexplained disappearance was even more peculiar than Judy’s, as the character played a bigger, more important role (in other words, she had actual lines of dialogue). Richie basically lost a mom, Harriet lost her sister, Rachel’s Place lost its owner, and Telma Hopkins lost her paycheck. Tragedy was dinging like a pinball machine all over the Matters universe.
THEORY: During the final season’s Christmas episode, Rachel, after opening her presents, skedaddled and was never to be seen again (although leaving the show at that point really was a present). To explain her lengthy absences, it’s safe to assume Carl “Buffalo Billed” Rachel, keeping her in an underground pit in her own restaurant’s basement, to fry up glazed donuts/yaks for him upon his request.
3. Estelle Winslow
SHOWDOWN! Her new hip is the new hip! A battle royale of this streetwise granny vs. yours truly
Dates: MANY HAHA!
Social Life: YES HUH?
Hip Factor: HIGH PAUL PFEIFFER-ISH
Yet, despite kicking my sorry white kiester in carpe diem-ing, after marrying her main squeeze, Fletcher, the eldest Winslow also mysteriously went POOF! from the show, taking her new baritone hubby and the greater Chicago area’s supply of Ben Gay down the bottomless pit with her.
THEORY: Let’s just put it this way… you don’t want to know what the secret ingredient in Carl’s “Taco Tuesday” menu is. Yes, those are bits of support hose in there.
4. Richie Crawford
Mother of all creatures, big and small! This creepy little troll-faced hobgoblin…
Nowhere near as adorable as they portrayed him, freaky little Richie Crawford somehow managed to pull off the Everest-task of sporting both a terrible Jheri-curl AND a mullet simultaneously.
It’s like this… you know how when viewing photos of Michael Jackson as a child, there’s that wave of shock about how normal he looked in comparison? Well, Richie is like an adult Michael Jackson, but as a freakin’ kid. Trying to try to figure how that molestation scenario would play out hurts my brain.*
THEORY: As if one weirdo youth wasn’t enough, the Winslows adopted the biggest sass-mouthed orphan since Annie. Enter Jerry Jamal Jameson, also known as “3J”, in the eighth season. The powers that be deemed this too many kids, so latchkey Richie vanished with his flaky mom during the final season’s Christmas episode, leaving 3J to take the reigns as the low-Winslow for the show’s final half-season.
Or more likely, Carl paid 3J to poison Richie’s Capri Sun pouches. The little runt never saw it coming.
5. Waldo “Geraldo” Faldo
city village idiot and best friend of Eddie Winslow, Carl’s eldest child. Waldo was the owner of a Forrest Gump-ish lQ, an unexpected culinary flair, and is the single-handed reason I still annoy people to this day by responding, “No prob, Bob”. But, in typical Matters mystique, he vamoosed during the show’s December years faster than a dirty-footed hippie dodging the draft during the 70’s.
(wait for it…)
THEORY: When good-natured simpleton Waldo tried to cook calorie-Carl a healthy, low-carb broccoli dinner, Winslow snapped like a postal worker in the 1990’s. That’s the number one reason you don’t bring your piece to the dinner table. (Number two reason? Buckshot in the rice pudding.)
6. (original) Harriet Winslow
“Hey Harriet, stop giving us a bad name.”
Close to the series’ close, when it had unceremoniously been dumped on CBS to die a slow and painful, and well-deserving death, Jo Marie Payton, the show’s second-billed actress, left the show, to unseemlessly be replaced by a different Harriet Winslow, played by JudyAnn Elder. Yes, we all noticed. It was like a bad toupee.
THEORY: To any readers in Chicago, go to Soldier Field. Yes, literally on the grass. Now, start running. Notice that huge lump bulging out on the 20-yard line? Courtesy of Harriet Winslow!
When would supa-fly homeboy Eddie, goody-two-shoes fussbudget Laura, and massive shark-jumper Urkel have bit the proverbial dust too? Maybe a tenth season would’ve given “Carl the Calorie Killer” Winslow the chance to work his malevolent magic on those unsuspecting stupid kids, but alas, we’ll just never know what horrors laid ahead at 1516 W. Wrightwood Avenue in Chicago, Illinois.
…or should we call it… HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES?!?
Now remember that adorable family photo from earlier? By comparison, it looks a heck of a lot sweeter than this haunting piece of evidence, found by detectives in Carl’s disturbing bedroom:
Till next time… no sweat, my pets!